Free NBA Picks: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, Opening Line Report and Handicapping
What's the worst life decision you ever made? Wrong girl (or guy, whatever floats your boat)? Wrong job? Wrong house? Why do I ask? The Knicks and Warriors play just twice a season, and they close things out for this season Tuesday night in Oakland. At least once when these teams play, I feel the need to remind everyone how close Steve Kerr was to being the Knicks coach in May 2014. Then-Knicks president Phil Jackson had offered his former player his first-ever head coaching gig and Kerr was going to take it - until the Warriors also offered only after losing out on Stan Van Gundy. It seems like an easy decision in retrospect, but the Warriors weren't the superpower they are now. And the Knicks are still the Knicks. Now Kerr is making a Hall of Fame case. Had he gone to New York, he probably was fired a couple of years ago. Doesn't matter how good of a coach you are if you don't have the players.
Pacers at Cavaliers ( +11.5, 204.5)
Indiana had a six-game winning streak snapped Sunday in a 121-105 loss in Toronto, which rested Kawhi Leonard. It was the Pacers' 11th consecutive loss north of the border. Myles Turner sat with a right shoulder issue. Cleveland lost its ninth in a row Saturday, 133-98 vs. New Orleans. That was the sorry Cavs' largest loss of the year. They have lost six straight at home by a total of 141 points. The last five have been by 20 or more points, an NBA record. These teams have split two meetings, each winning on the road. Indiana is looking to win twice in Cleveland during the regular season for the first time since 2012-13.
Key trends: The Pacers are 12-2 against the spread in their past 14 in Cleveland. The "over/under" has gone under in eight straight Tuesday games for Indiana.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Wizards at 76ers (TBA)
Front end of a B2B for Philly, so make sure Joel Embiid isn't rested here (he usually plays both ends now if 100 percent). Ben Simmons was questionable Monday with an upper respiratory infection. Washington was a 116-98 upset winner in Oklahoma City on Sunday. The Wiz hadn't won a road game vs. that franchise since it was in Seattle. Bradley Beal had 25 points. Otto Porter had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. Washington lost in Philly on Nov. 30, 123-98, and has dropped the past five there.
Key trends: The Wiz are 1-5 ATS in their past six in Philly. The over is 4-0 in the Sixers' previous four vs. the East.
Early lean: Wait on Simmons.
Nuggets at Heat (pick'em, 209)
Denver won its fifth in a row Saturday, 123-110 over Charlotte. Nikola Jokic scored a season-high 39 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. At 26-11, the Nuggets are off to their best NBA start in franchise history. It's the latest they've been in first place in the conference since March 16, 1977. Miami was routed in Atlanta on Sunday, 106-82. About the only bright spot was Dwyane Wade joining Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the lone players in NBA history with at least 20,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 800 blocks and 500 3s. These teams split two close games last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Nuggets are 1-5 ATS in their past six on the road. The over is 6-1 in Miami's previous seven.
Early lean: Heat and over.
Hawks at Raptors (-15.5, 229)
Atlanta ended a three-game losing streak with a 24-point rout of the Heat on Sunday. John Collins had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Kent Bazemore was out with an ankle injury. DeAndre' Bembry finished with 17 points starting in his place. Toronto beat Indiana on Sunday, 121-105, with Kawhi Leonard sitting out the second of a back-to-back. Norman Powell scored a season-high 23 points, while Kyle Lowry returned after missing the previous six and had 12 points and eight assists. Toronto won by 16 in Atlanta on Nov. 21 and has taken five straight in the series.
Key trends: The Hawks are 0-5 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Timberwolves at Thunder (-7.5, 226)
First of an NBA TV doubleheader. It will be Minnesota's first game since firing coach and team president Tom Thibodeau. Interesting timing by ownership as it followed the Wolves' 108-86 home win over the Lakers on Sunday. Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 18 rebounds to improve his team to 14-6 at home. Assistant coach Ryan Saunders, just 32, will take over as Minnesota's interim coach. He's the son of the late Flip Saunders. The Thunder had a three-game winning streak end in a 116-98 home rout by Washington on Sunday. Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists for his 12th triple-double of the season. He was two turnovers from a quadruple-double. Alex Abrines missed his fourth straight game due to personal reasons. Minnesota won in OKC on Dec. 23, 114-112, and has taken two in a row overall in the series.
Key trends: The Wolves have covered five straight in series. The over is 4-1 in those.
Early lean: Wolves and over.
Kings at Suns (TBA)
Sacramento brought a four-game losing streak into Monday's home matchup vs. Orlando. Marvin Bagley III was out for that again and won't be back for at least two weeks. Here's hoping you didn't bet on him to win Rookie of the Year. Phoenix dropped its sixth in a row Sunday, 119-113 to Charlotte. Devin Booker left the game with back spasms in the second quarter and did not return. The Kings won in Phoenix on Dec. 4, 122-105. Sacramento led wire-to-wire thanks to a 36-9 first quarter advantage. The 27-point differential was the largest point differential for a quarter in the Sacramento era.
Key trends: The underdog is 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings. The over is 4-1 in the Suns' past five at home.
Early lean: Wait on Booker.
Knicks at Warriors (-18, 229)
Second NBA TV game. New York probably has nothing in the tank here as it played in Portland on Monday and this concludes a grueling six-game trip. Golden State won 127-123 in Sacramento on Saturday as the teams combined for an NBA-record 42 made three pointers. Steph Curry had 10 of them on the way to 42 points. Of course, the second story line is that the next time the Knicks and Warriors play, Kevin Durant could be in a New York uniform. Durant scored 25 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter of the Warriors 128-100 win at the Knicks on Oct. 26. That score is hugely misleading as New York led by three entering the fourth but was outscored 47-16. That 31-point differential was a franchise record in the shot clock era in any fourth quarter for the Warriors. Golden State has won the past nine in the series.
Key trends: The Warriors are 0-5 ATS in their past five at home. The over is 11-5 in their past 16 vs. teams with a losing record.
Early lean: Knicks (I can't not take that many points) and over.
Hornets at Clippers (TBA)
Charlotte is awful on the road, but Phoenix is awful everywhere and the Hornets won there Sunday, 119-113. Kemba Walker had 18 of his 29 points in the final 4½ minutes. He had his team's final 14. Walker ranks second to LeBron James in fourth-quarter scoring at 8.27 points per game. The Clippers won their second in a row Sunday, 106-96. Tobias Harris finished with 28 points despite zero on 0-for-6 shooting in the first. Guard Milos Teodosic was inactive for the second consecutive game because of a knee injury. First meeting between these teams. They spilt last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: The Clippers are 7-2 ATS in their past nine. The over is 8-0 in Charlotte's past eight on the road.
Early lean: Not really sure why this is TBA - can't be for the Hornets' Jeremy Lamb (questionable).
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